For over a decade, cryptocurrencies have occupied a strange spot in the marketplace’s collective psyche. Some say they’re the future of both trade and currency, while others argue they’re a dead-end investment for digital speculators only.
Most importantly, cryptocurrencies have been something of a hard sell for the general public—and for good reason. Buying, storing, and accessing Bitcoin, for example, isn’t the easiest task in the world. But recent pushes from big tech companies may be changing the accessibility of Bitcoin more than initially anticipated.
The Challenges Faced by Cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrencies have long represented a kind of digital dream: easy to access and cryptographically secure currencies that can be acquired by, and traded to, anyone. But while the allure of a sovereign, universal digital currency—like many postulate Bitcoin to be—is high, so are the challenges.
Historically, most people haven’t used cryptocurrencies due to their challenges and investment risks:
For starters, all investors have previously needed to trust payment processors or remittance services that lack in UI/UX, security, and overall user trust.
Alternatively, would-be investors could invest in cryptocurrencies using cash or peer-to-peer cryptocurrency marketplaces. But this requires industry know-how and connections, and most average folks still don’t really know how Bitcoin works or what it means
Lastly, cryptocurrencies are not accepted at the majority of retailers, particularly outside of tech hubs (paying for a pizza with Bitcoin in Silicon Valley doesn’t really count). This clearly limits the utility of digital assets.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. The big “four horsemen” of the tech world are looking to bring cryptocurrencies into the public eye in ways never imagined before.
How Tech Giants are Integrating Cryptocurrencies into Their Platforms
Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are each working on proprietary payment services that, due to developing those services in-house, are each designed to offer cryptocurrency integration.
We’re already seeing these developments play out in the real world. For instance, there are many popular merchants that accept payments through Google and Apple Pay: both companies’ respective payment services.
But Google is probably
doing more in fintech than any of the other big tech giants so far. In another brilliant move to progress its fintech developments, it has recently allowed users to add Coinbase’s Visa debit card to their digital wallet. That’s right: users can now
use cryptocurrencies to pay for items in stores that accept Google Pay.
Yet it’s more than just Google behind Bitcoin’s current momentum. Now retailers and various payment processing software are giving smaller businesses the tools they need to
accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency payments. It’s clear that things are indeed heading in a certain direction.
A Global Blockchain Race
The race isn’t likely to end with just offering cryptocurrency payment services. For example, Amazon already offers a blockchain-as-a-service platform called Amazon Managed Blockchain. In this way, Amazon is clearly maneuvering to link itself directly to growing cryptocurrency markets.
Then of course there’s also Facebook and its controversial blockchain-based token,
Libra. While we’re not exactly sure what it will lead to, seeing the world’s largest social media platform create its own digital asset says something.
It’s clear that, with all four big companies pushing for cryptocurrency acceptance to some degree, they’re preparing for the future. And thus far, they’ve been pretty good at that.
PayPal’s Latest Development
More recently, the San Jose-based company
PayPal has announced that all customers will soon be able to hold Bitcoin and other types of digital cryptocurrencies in its online wallet. Even more importantly, customers will be able to shop using those same cryptocurrencies at over 26 million merchants shared throughout the cryptocurrencies network.
This development’s importance cannot be understated. With this one move, PayPal has made cryptocurrencies a viable alternative for digital transactions, particularly for freelancers and internet-based workers who may deal with cryptocurrencies more often than not. PayPal has also boosted its share price from a
recent September dip.
Furthermore, throughout the last months of 2020 and into the first half of 2021, all US PayPal account holders will progressively be able to sell, buy, and hold various types of cryptocurrencies. In the first half of 2021, the service is expected to expand to Venmo (a peer-to-peer payment app) and a few other countries.
Why this push for cryptocurrency acceptance? According to PayPal, the company hopes that doing this will encourage the global use of all these digital coins. It’s easy to imagine why – being an electronic and digital wallet service, PayPal stands to benefit more than many other companies from the adoption of digital wealth rather than wealth based in physical currencies.
But this maneuver is just one part of PayPal’s efforts to get Bitcoin and other digital currencies accepted. Cryptocurrencies’ historic volatility may be attractive to certain speculators, but regular shoppers are (understandably) more hesitant for these same reasons. They see real risk instead of potential profits.
PayPal has accordingly
announced that it intends to adopt responsibility for managing price fluctuation risk. This is an unprecedented move, but it’s one that may even be matched by centralized banks also looking to adopt cryptocurrencies over the next few years.
The Future of Cryptocurrencies
All in all, it’s not clear how much longer it’ll take before cryptocurrencies are as widespread or accepted as physical currencies. Perhaps these digital assets will never truly reach the utter ubiquity of, say, the USD. But a lot of that might depend on the USD more than Bitcoin.
One thing’s for sure: The time of digital assets has yet to come. But, in all fairness, the world’s largest tech giants are getting ready.